Comedy has long been a passion for Fair Lawn's Eric Lyden.
But on 9/11, it became his purpose.
"I needed to laugh," said Lyden, a father of three.
"That was the first extended period of time I went without saying something funny.
"Once I understood the value of comedy, I started taking my job seriously because I knew how it felt to want to laugh."
That's become the guiding principle in life for Lyden, who will be holding a charitable show next month and donating all of the funds Fair Lawn's Brandon Higgins (June 22, $20 at the door, 6 p.m. doors open at Fair Lawn Community Center).
Higgins, 24, survived brain cancer after receiving treatment in 2013, but was left unable to eat, stand, walk or speak. His mind is still active, but he remains in a wheelchair at home with his family.
All of the proceeds from Lyden's show will go toward acquiring a medical van for Higgins, which the comic hopes will both ease the burden and give the entire Bergen County community and beyond a reason to smile.
Lyden says people told him he was funny for nearly his entire life, but never considered it a full-time job.
"You don't get paid to act like this," he said, "you get fired for acting like this."
Lyden knew he could make his friends laugh, but what about strangers? He went to an open mic night to try out some jokes, and soon-after, quit his job as a car salesman to pursue comedy.
Although he took a $30,000 pay cut, Lyden was happier at 30 years old than he had been his entire life. And that was priceless.
"I had this symbolic moment where I just unplugged my alarm clock," Lyden said. "I'll never forget it. I didn't need it. I didn't need to get up anymore."
But he still had to work. To write. To come up with jokes.
Lyden went straight to the park and sat on a park bench. He said it was like the scene from "Good Will Hunting," except he wasn't talking to anyone.
"I thought these ideas would just come to me, so I sat there," he said.
"But there is nothing funny about sitting alone in a park -- it's depressing.
"Besides, the kind of people that sit in parks by themselves don't go to comedy clubs."
In order to find good jokes, he'd have to live.
Most of Lyden's jokes are based on his everyday life. His favorite is one about his grandmother's funeral where his father gave the eulogy.
"When he was up there, it was like he was on stage delivering," Lyden recalled. "And then he got off and was like, 'So, what'd you think?'"
We'll save the rest for the comedy show -- June 22 at the Fair Lawn Community Center. Tickets are $20 and show times are 7 and 9 p.m. All are welcome.
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